This is now the last sermon in our series through the book of 1 John. How should we sum up this book? We might sum it up with a reminder to abide in Christ (1 John 2:28). Or maybe we'd sum it up with encouragement to practice righteousness (1 John 2:29). Or maybe we'd conclude it up with an admonition to love our brothers (1 John 4:7). All of these were reoccurring themes throughout the letter.
But John concludes his letter by going in a different direction which we might not expect. I hope to show it was the perfect way to end his letter. John sums up his letter up by telling us not to go with the flow of the world.
âWe know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.â (1 John 5:18-21)
We might call this last section of 1 John "things that we can know." Three of the last four verses begin by stating what we ought to know. He actually began this a few verses up. Verse 13 says that we can know that we have eternal life. Verse 15 says that we can know that God hears our prayers and will answer our prayers.
We often treat life as if it were full of uncertainties. We don't know what's in store for us in the future. We could get some bad news from the doctor! It seems as though as soon as one war ends, another begins. We don't even know what will happen today! But if we believe the Bible is true, then there are a lot of things that we can know for certain.
Contrast this with the knowledge of the world apart from God. We can learn a lot from science. Science shows us how our bodies work. Science makes predictions regarding out the world and the universe operates. But apart from believing in God, we can actually learn little to nothing from science. Just because they test a hypothesis over and over and over and have always gotten the same results, this doesn't mean that they will get the same results the next time they run that test. In fact, the Big Bang Theory and Theory of Evolution demand that random, inexplicable chaos theory be implemented as a constant in every hypothesis, meaning that science itself can ultimately teach us nothing for certain apart from God.
But there's no such thing as random chance when you throw God into the equation. I heard recently that there's no such things as coincidence, only the appearance of coincidence. The truth is, God's got a perfect plan, and He knows what He's doing.
John concludes his letter with three more statements that we can know.
1. We can know that everyone born of God does not keep on sinning (v. 18). 2. We can know that we are from God (v. 19). 3. We can know that Jesus has come and has given us His Truth so that we may know Him (v. 20).
I thought about examining each of these, because each is important and worth spending some time on. But these are actually summary statements of things which John has already written about. So instead I encourage you if one of these is something you would like to know more in your life to go back and listen to the message I've already preached on it. But I'd like to focus the remainder of this message on the idea that John leaves us with at the very end of his letter.
Most letters in the New Testament conclude with some greetings and farewells. But 1 John seems to end abruptly (v. 21). Doing this adds extra impact to the final message that he left them with. John's final message was that we keep ourselves from idols. At first, you might think this is an odd way to conclude his letter. After all, the letter included many themes, but this is the first time the letter mentions idols. But it's more than a final thought. In reflecting upon all that he had written up to this point, he wanted to leave his readers with some instruction that could both sum up his letter and be easy to remember when facing any situation. Living in this world, we inevitably are tempted to worship idols everywhere we go. That's the way of the world. We're tempted to work for money. We're tempted to enjoy television. We're tempted to put our hope in politics. We're tempted to pursue success and careers. But none of these things are what we need, and none of them will satisfy. We need to place our hope in Christ. We need to find our joy in Christ. We need to work for Christ, doing all things to the glory of God. Don't go with the flow of the world! The world incorporates so many idols into their everyday lives. But we need to be intentional about worshiping God only.
Today's idols offer present happiness, but it will be gone in a moment's time. They lure us in because they look innocent enough. But if we turn our attention to them, we turn our attention away from God. And if we turn our attention away from God for very long, we show by our lives that we are not children of God. So John begs us to keep ourselves from idols. Don't let Satan drag you away. Don't be like the rocky soil, who embraced the gospel at first with joy, but then fell away because he had no root. Be sure that you know Christ! Turn from all idols! The world is captivated by idols, which are really just manifestations of the devil (v. 19). If you truly know Christ, you will not be captivated by idols (v. 18). There is only one true God, and we must worship Him only (v. 20).
So, you see, John's admonition to keep yourself from idols is his final encouragement to abide in Christ. Worshiping idols is the way of the world. Not worshiping idols is so fundamental to our faith. It's one of the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:1-6)! We're to worship God, and if we have Christ as Savior, we will do just that.